How We Met: Pete Fowler & Gruff Rhys

'I did a toy figure based on Gruff as an older man with an allotment. I put him in a tank top'

Gruff Rhys, 38, is a Welsh musician and member of the rock band Super Furry Animals. Raised in north Wales, he now lives in Cardiff and London with his partner and daughter

It must have been back in about 1996 when a friend of mine showed me some photos of these murals painted by a man called Pete Fowler. They were amazing. It coincided with the end of a tour of Japan I had done. I had been immersed in Japanese imagery and when I saw Pete's work, it was like a eureka moment.

Pete's a great observer of popular culture. Back then he was into the skateboarding and BMX scenes, as well as music, whereas I had a more rural way of thinking, a hick from north Wales who'd moved to Cardiff to make my fortune or something. Pete's work was full of imagery from contemporary life in glorious Technicolor. This was the Britpop era, when a conservative mentality evoking some idea of 1960s London life prevailed. Pete's work was the opposite – an internationalist vision of the future.

As much as our music inspires him, Pete's artwork inspires us. The images he created for our Radiator album, which was our first collaboration, included loads of references to technology. The mobile phone was a motif in his work and, as a result, became a central theme for our album Guerrilla. It's not just his art – Pete and his brother, Chris, have an incredible knowledge of 1960s and 1970s rock and folk. The music we've listened to through them has had a great influence on what we do.

His Monsterism [ongoing narrative cartoon project] is incredible, too. He made a toy based on me called Grylph. I'm looking forward to more Monsterism – I'd love to be able to completely enter that world. It would make a great theme park.

We've worked with many artists over the years and a lot have come through Pete. For our latest album, Dark Days/Light Years, we worked with a great Japanese pop artist called Keiichi Tanaami. He wanted to work with us because he knew about Pete's Monsterism work and wanted to work with him.

I've spent most of the past 13 years on tour, which makes friendships difficult, and a lot of my communication with Pete is by email or fax when we're working. When we do get the chance to meet, it's usually something musical – a gig or an incredible night Pete runs with his friends every year. It specialises in mind-melting, cosmic folk.

Working with a band is insane, because effectively you've got several clients with different ideas. Dealing with us is like taking on a five-headed beast and to balance those demands, you need a person with incredible patience and enthusiasm for what he does. Pete has that and it's infectious.

Pete Fowler, 40, is, in his words, "an illustrator, painter, scribbler, toy creator, knob twiddler and Scrabble enthusiast". Best known for his artwork for the Super Furry Animals, he is also behind the world of "Monsterism". He lives in east London "with two stuffed owls"

I was a big fan of the Super Furry Animals before I met Gruff. At about the time I bought their first album, I had moved to London from Cornwall, for work. I was scraping by, often doing work for nothing to get myself out there. Then, just as I was looking to get my teeth into a project, I got a call from Creation Records asking me to bring my book in for the Animals. I was jumping up and down. It must have been about 14 years ago now, but I think it's almost inevitable that we would have met sooner or later. As we got to know each other, it turned out we share similar attitudes and tastes in music.

I'm more interested in sounds than visual influences – I don't go to galleries or check out other illustrators' work. The work I was doing for the Animals was exactly the kind of stuff I loved doing and it was just amazing to see it up on posters and billboards. To a degree, it also helped to create the visual identity of the band.

There's no set way to how I work. Music affects the art in different ways. One thing I do have is a kind of synaesthesia – sound affects the colours I use.

I must have done about seven albums now. It's a challenge to come up with something new each time. The first album was painted, the second used sculpture and I've since become familiar with using computer techniques. For the last album, I collaborated with the legendary Japanese illustrator Keiichi Tanaami. It's been fantastic, and the packshot is just a taste of what we've done. It's been the most intense work I've done – I've exchanged tonnes of emails with Gruff and the boys every day.

I've used Monsterism in some of the Animals covers but generally I like to keep it separate. I did do a toy figure called Grylph, which was modelled on Gruff as an older man with an allotment. I emphasised the hair, beard and put him in a tank top. I think Gruff likes it.

Gruff travels a lot and has a daughter now, so I don't see him as much as I used to, but when we're not emailing each other about covers or working professionally, sometimes it's just nice to get together as friends – there's nothing that beats just playing records and getting a curry.

'Dark Days/Light Years' is out now on Rough Trade. Monsters Inked: Inside the Minds of The Gods of Monsters is at the Idea Generation Gallery, London E2 (, until 4 May

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs People

Recruitment Genius: HR Manager

£25000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They are in need of a HR Manage...

h2 Recruit Ltd: Business Development Manager - HR Consultancy - £65,000 OTE

£35000 - £40000 per annum + £65,000 OTE: h2 Recruit Ltd: London, Birmingham, M...

Day In a Page

A Christmas without hope: Fears grow in Gaza that the conflict with Israel will soon reignite

Christmas without hope

Gaza fears grow that conflict with Israel will soon reignite
After 150 years, you can finally visit the grisliest museum in the country

The 'Black Museum'

After 150 years, you can finally visit Britain's grisliest museum
No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

Doctor Who Christmas Special TV review
Chilly Christmas: Swimmers take festive dip for charity

Chilly Christmas

Swimmers dive into freezing British waters for charity
Veterans' hostel 'overwhelmed by kindness' for festive dinner

Homeless Veterans appeal

In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
Isis in Iraq: Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment by militants

'Jilan killed herself in the bathroom. She cut her wrists and hanged herself'

Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment
Ed Balls interview: 'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'

Ed Balls interview

'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'
He's behind you, dude!

US stars in UK panto

From David Hasselhoff to Jerry Hall
Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz: What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?

Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz

What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?
Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Planet’s surface is inhospitable to humans but 30 miles above it is almost perfect
Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

Autism-friendly theatre

Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all